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  • Taylor Richter, RDN, LD

The Power of Walking

As the weather warms up, many of us are eager to spend more time outdoors. But what's the best way to make the most of your outdoor time? Is walking really worth it, especially when compared to the more intense activities like running or jogging? Surprisingly, research suggests that walking can be incredibly beneficial, leading to weight loss and a decrease in chronic disease risk when done consistently.


Walking vs. Running

When it comes to choosing between walking and running, the decision often comes down to personal preference, fitness level, and health goals. While running is often perceived as a more intense workout with higher calorie burn, research indicates that walking can be just as effective, for weight loss and overall health improvement.


In a study involving 50,000 individuals, including both runners and walkers, researchers found that both groups experienced weight loss regardless of their chosen activity. While runners tended to lose weight more rapidly, especially men, walkers still achieved significant weight loss over time.


The Benefits of Walking

Walking is a simple, accessible form of exercise that can be easily incorporated into daily life. It requires no special equipment and can be done almost anywhere, making it an excellent choice for people of all fitness levels.

  • Low Impact: Walking is a low-impact exercise that is gentle on the joints, making it suitable for individuals with joint issues or those who are new to exercise.

  • Accessibility: One of the greatest advantages of walking is its accessibility. It requires no special equipment and can be done almost anywhere, making it a convenient form of exercise for people of all ages and fitness levels.

  • Weight Management: Research indicates that consistent walking can be an effective way to lose weight. While it may not burn as many calories as running, walking can still contribute to weight loss.

  • Mental Health Benefits: Walking has been shown to have positive effects on mental health, including reducing symptoms of depression and anxiety and improving overall mood.

Chronic Disease Management

Beyond weight loss, walking offers significant benefits for managing chronic diseases such as heart disease, diabetes, and arthritis. Regular physical activity, can improve cardiovascular health, reduce the risk of type 2 diabetes, and help manage arthritis symptoms.

  • Heart Disease: Walking can improve heart health by lowering blood pressure, reducing cholesterol levels, and improving overall cardiovascular fitness. The American Heart Association recommends at least 150 minutes of moderate-intensity aerobic activity, such as brisk walking, per week to reduce the risk of heart disease.

  • Diabetes: Walking can help improve insulin sensitivity and blood sugar control, making it a valuable tool for managing type 2 diabetes.

  • Arthritis: Walking can help improve joint health and reduce pain and stiffness associated with arthritis.

Tips for Maximizing Your Walks

To get the most out of your walks, consider incorporating the following tips into your routine:

  • Set Realistic Goals: Start with a manageable walking distance or duration and gradually increase as you build stamina.

  • Consistency: Aim to walk regularly, to experience the full benefits of walking.

  • Hydration: Remember to drink plenty of water before, during, and after your walk to stay hydrated and energized.

  • Walk Outside: Walking outside, even in the cold, can help fight seasonal depression, improve overall mental health and give your body some extra vitamin D. 


Conclusion

While running may offer quicker weight loss results and a more intense workout, walking can still be a highly effective form of exercise for weight loss and overall health improvement. Whether you choose to walk, run, or incorporate both into your routine, the key is to find an activity that you enjoy and can maintain over the long term. So, lace up your shoes, step outside, and start reaping the benefits of walking!


Resources:

  1. Williams PT. Greater weight loss from running than walking during a 6.2-yr prospective follow-upMed Sci Sports Exerc. 2013;45(4):706-13. doi:10.1249/MSS.0b013e31827b0d0a

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